"How SAFE are radioactive material transportation packages?"



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Emergency Planning, Preparedness, and Response

Transportation Emergency
Preparedness Program (TEPP)

DOE is responsible for assisting State, Tribal, and Local Officials in preparing for the safe shipment of radioactive materials through their communities and and in responding to transportation incidents, including:
  • Emergency planning and guidance
  • Training materials development and delivery
  • Emergency drill and exercises
  • Centralized emergency notification (Emergency Operations Centers)
  • Support to emergency responders
      - Radiological surveys
      - Technical assistance
      - Public information
  • Post-incident assessment (with other agencies)
2000 Emergency Response

Congressional Research Service Report for Congress Transportation of Spent Nuclear Fuel, Mark Holt, Environment and Natural Resources Policy Division, Updated May 29, 1998

When a nuclear waste transportation accident occurs, local emergency personnel are normally the first authorities on the scene. Their ability to take appropriate action, such as extinguishing fires and organizing evacuations, can be an important factor in mitigating an accident's consequences. Such state and local capability depends largely on adequate training and preparation.

Section 180(c) of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act requires DOE to provide technical assistance and funding to states for training public safety officials of units of local government along transportation routes for high-level waste and spent fuel. The training is to cover routine shipments as well as response to transportation emergencies. Funding for the assistance program is to be provided from the Nuclear Waste Fund, which contains fees assessed on nuclear power generation.

DOE issued a policy proposal May 16, 1996, for implementing the technical assistance program (61 FR 24772). A local jurisdiction would be eligible for the grants beginning 3 years before nuclear waste shipments were to begin traversing it; eligibility would continue for each year that the route through the jurisdiction was to be used. Under the proposal, funding could be used for training new emergency personnel, refresher courses, and related equipment. Additional drills and exercises would be conducted by DOE in conjunction with states, Indian tribes, and local governments.

Under current law, nuclear waste shipments to Yucca Mountain are not expected to begin for at least another decade, giving DOE several years to select routes and prepare for local emergency response training. However, legislation such as S. 104 would require waste transportation to a Yucca Mountain interim storage facility to begin much sooner, raising questions about the readiness of local emergency officials. Options for ensuring emergency readiness for early waste transportation include increasing DOE's planned technical assistance grants so that emergency training could be completed more quickly, and sending trained emergency personnel along with each shipment until local personnel were ready.

The Department of Transportation provides annual grants to states, Indian tribes, and localities for emergency response planning and training for hazardous materials transportation accidents. Those grants, although not aimed specifically at shipments of highly radioactive material, would be expected to increase the general emergency response capabilities of local officials. DOT awarded $8 million in grants to all states and territories in FY1994.

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